Private Members’ Business - Carjacking
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Mr A Maginness: I thank the proposer of the motion. It is a timely motion on a serious public issue that has struck fear into the lives of many people living in the greater Belfast area. There is no doubt that we were all touched by the attack — that is what it was — on our colleague Anna Lo. She acted very bravely in confronting the attempted hijacking of her car and the person who was attempting to carry out that despicable attack on her and her property. Others have acted in a similar fashion.
Clearly, this is a very serious problem. I am not certain that the problem will simply be solved by the Minister of Justice talking from the Dispatch Box today. It is the action of the PSNI that will bring this problem under control and curb those who are trying to carry out such criminal acts.
The greatest deterrent for criminals is the fear of detection. The creation of the task force by the PSNI is a very positive step towards the detection of such criminals. When they are caught, they should face the fullest rigour of the law, because this is such a despicable criminal activity.
Comparisons with joyriding some years ago are not quite correct. Joyriding was a phenomenon associated with young people and was done for various reasons, but I believe that this phenomenon is carried out by professional criminals. That is because those professional criminals can no longer access cars due to the technological advances: you cannot start a car without a proper key, and it is very difficult to gain entry to a car, such is the security of locks and locking systems. So, there are all sorts of technological reasons why serious criminals cannot access cars and take them away.
That is another way that hardened, professional criminals use to gain access to vehicles for whatever purposes. Perhaps, they want to spirit them away, across the border or to Scotland or England, or use them for robberies or other serious criminal offences. Accessing people’s homes to steal the keys and the cars is just another aspect of this phenomenon. Hardened criminals are carrying out such activities.
I do not believe that this is some sort of youthful phenomenon such as joyriding, which was successfully addressed by the community in conjunction with effective policing and the youth justice system.
We should send out a strong message to the judicial authorities emphasising the seriousness with which we view this matter, the fear that has been struck into the community and the need for deterrent sentences to try to curb those despicable acts. Therefore, we will support the amendment.
I believe that the judiciary will be sensitive and will hear the voice of legislators and public representatives in the Assembly. It is important that they do hear that voice and that we make sure that we highlight this matter to the judiciary. Naturally, it is up to them to exercise their discretion, but it is important for us to emphasise to them the fear and hurt in the community and that people have been seriously affected as a result of the psychological trauma as well as the physical trauma of being attacked and hurt, and the serious financial detriment as a result of insurance and so forth being affected.